Munster boss Johann van Graan has backed Tyler Bleyendaal to step up to the challenge of facing Saracens in Europe in 11 days if his downbeat assessment of Joey Carbery’s fitness proves correct.
The Munster head coach yesterday rated Carbery “highly unlikely” to overcome his hamstring injury for the province’s Heineken Champions Cup semi-final at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry on April 20.
The 23-year-old, signed last summer from Leinster, has become first-choice fly-half since his arrival but suffered a hamstring strain on international duty with Ireland in mid-February.
He returned to action for Munster’s European quarter-final against Edinburgh at Murrayfield on March 30 but was withdrawn after just 35 minutes and though he made an appearance as a water carrier for his side in Friday’s Guinness PRO14 home win over Cardiff Blues in Cork, yesterday’s outlook was decidedly gloomy.
“He is highly unlikely to play next weekend,” van Graan said of Carbery’s chances of facing Saracens. “We’ll give him every opportunity to play but at this stage it’s highly unlikely. We’ll just take our time with him, it’s day to day.”
Bleyendaal is in good form having steered Munster into the Champions Cup semis as Carbery’s replacement, then starting against Cardiff last weekend when he kicked five out of five conversions in a 45-21 bonus-point victory.
Van Graan would not reveal who was or wasn’t available for selection for this Friday’s PRO14 trip to play Benetton in Treviso as he shuffles his pack ahead of the Saracens clash eight days later but he did express his confidence in Bleyendaal’s form.
I thought Tyler played really well over the weekend. I think his last few weekends he did really well coming on from the bench against Zebre and Edinburgh. I thought he was excellent again on Friday night.
“We obviously have JJ (Hanrahan) and Bill (Johnston) as well who should get some game time over the coming weeks. We’re very happy with Tyler. Obviously if Joey doesn’t play, it’s a huge loss, but I think our theme has been we are going to back our squad and back the next man in.”
Munster were confident Keith Earls will prove his fitness having been a late withdrawal before kick-off on Friday after feeling tightness in his left thigh while there were also positive reports from van Graan on both lock Jean Kleyn and captain Peter O’Mahony, both of whom were withdrawn during the Cardiff game while Jack O’Donoghue was clear to play having come through return to play protocols having failed a Head Injury Assessment against Edinburgh.